Nfld. & Labrador

Vaccination rates in Newfoundland and Labrador highest in country

Newfoundland and Labrador leads Canada in vaccination rates, according to a recent report by the C.D. Howe Institute.
More children are immunized in Newfoundland and Labrador per capita than any other province in Canada, according to a recent report. (Lukas Schulze/dpa/Associated Press)

Newfoundland and Labrador leads Canada in vaccination rates, according to a recent report by the C.D. Howe Institute.

A research paper released last week said the province has the highest rate of childhood immunization in the country.

It said that 95 per cent of children in Newfoundland and Labrador have been immunized against childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and chicken pox.

Nationally, immunization rates range from 70 to 95 per cent of children.

David Allison, medical health officer with Eastern Health, thinks a big part of the province's success is support from the public.

"I think by and large, we have a very compliant population," he said.

"People understand — I hope they thoroughly understand the benefits of vaccines. We occasionally have people who have questions or concerns and our nurses are able to explain that in most situations."

Influence of nurses

Allison believes nurses also play a critical role in ensuring that vaccinations rates are high in across the province.

Dr. David Allison of Eastern Health thinks people in Newfoundland and Labrador generally support vaccinations. (CBC)

"The nurses make a point —  particularly at school entry — of going out and making sure that if there are new children in the neighbourhoods, that they're immunized and they're up to the schedule and they follow through," he said.

The report comes as Quebec deals with a new measles outbreak affecting almost 120 people.

Colin Busby, a policy analyst with the C.D. Howe Institute who co-authored the vaccination study, said Newfoundland and Labrador is bucking a national trend of declining rates of vaccinations.

"With the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, most provinces are falling below coverage targets," he said.

Busby said researchers found a wide disparity in vaccination rates. For example, Nova Scotia has the lowest rate of coverage for the MMR vaccine, at just 66 per cent.

Systematic problems

Busby doesn't blame anti-vaccine sentiments for the poor showing, but inadequate roll-out plans and tracking.

The CD Howe institute released a report last week, showing most provinces falling below vaccination coverage targets. (CBC)

"A lot of the hesitancy comes from often just delay or just partially immunizing your child," he said.

"For example, you see in the Alberta data — that is really the richest data available —  that one or two parents might get the vaccine but won't complete the cycle." 

While Ontario fares better than most provinces, Busby found vaccinations aren't recorded in a central database until children are in school.

A national vaccination registry was proposed more than a decade ago, but not every province has fully signed on.

Busby said that is a problem for health officials trying to target a response to an outbreak, especially across provincial boundaries.

"It's going to be a challenge to get the provinces to a point where they can share, but it seems absolutely imperative that they do." 

With files from Vik Adophia

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